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Cigars, Cutthroats and Cycles

Bob Rivard
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Winter 95/96

The seven men formed a shadowy circle amid the dense pine trees in the Idaho high country, faces profiled by the campfire, minds lulled by the rushing waters of nearby Moose Creek. Big Bill Stephens hunched over like a black bear as he recited a short story from his youth. The fragrant aroma of popping pine needles mixed with the pungent, earthy smoke of Montecristo No. 2s and Avo Pyramids.

The group welcomed the descending cold as the temperature dropped to the high 30s, a chilling change from the sapping 100°F heat of the south Texas summer day we had left only that morning.

Seven tents stood among the Douglas firs; as many fly rods leaned against the tree trunks, ready for use at daybreak. A row of gleaming Harley Davidson motorcycles were corralled nearby, their custom paint jobs reflecting the brilliant light of the star-filled sky.

Appreciative applause greeted Stephens as he concluded his reading, and then the talk turned to cigars. A 1963 Dow Port, decanted earlier, made the rounds. Avos, one of the men asserted, might be the best cigars made today, and the most consistently rewarding non-Cuban. The Montecristos, another declared, were a robust, complex smoke that would never be mistaken for a Dominican cigar. Wasn't it time to lift the embargo? someone asked, passing the Port.

Later, as I crawled into my tent, I asked myself: Why doesn't everyone just go fishing?

Premium Cuban and Dominican cigars and vintage Port? Fly rods, Harleys, and a fiction reading in the great Western wilderness? Who are these guys?

Their leather jackets identify them as members of Los Compadres, a group of hardcore Harley riders from San Antonio. Most of them also belong to Cigar Solamente, a small smoking club tucked into a former art gallery a few blocks from the historic Alamo.

Actually, the men around the campfire are some of San Antonio's most successful businessmen: the head of the nation's 12th largest grocery store chain, the owner of Texas-based brake repair stores, the publisher of the San Antonio Express-News, the second-largest newspaper in the Hearst chain, a lawyer/real estate developer, a noted ophthalmologist. And there was Stephens, the Express-News' wine critic, and myself, an Express-News editor. Seven boys, aged 40-something to 60-something.

Money was no object for most in the group, but forget posh Caribbean cruises, golf pilgrimages to Scotland, or tours of Europe. The boys wanted fun and adventure.

That's why we decided this year's foray would start in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for some of the best fly-fishing in the West, and then proceed to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the annual Black Hills Harley rally, a gathering of tens of thousands of hog riders from far and wide.

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